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YANATY PETROCHEMICAL LIMITED v. ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION

(2017) LPELR-43473(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 15th day of December, 2017

SC.68/2016


Before Their Lordships

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

JOHN INYANG OKORO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

YANATY PETROCHEMICAL LIMITED - Appellant(s)

AND

ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Estoppel Per Rem Judicatam/Res Judicata.

FACTS:
This is an appeal by the respondent before the Court of Appeal against the judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court delivered on 7th December, 2015, coram: Hon. Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-wilson; Hon. Justice Tani Yusuf Hassan; and Hon. Justice Joseph Eyo Ekanem, JJCA in which the Court allowed the appeal of the respondent and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division delivered on 19th December, 2013.

The appellant as the plaintiff at the Federal High Court had commenced a proceedings against the respondent by way of an Originating Summons in which it had sought the determination of the following questions:
"1. Whether in view of the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed on the 22nd day of May, 2013 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/617/2012 -YANATY PETRO CHEMICAL LIMITED VS. PETROLEUM PRODUCT PRICING REGULATORY AGENCY & ANOR and in particular Relief 2 therein, investigation into any allegation of fraud and money laundering with respect to the payment of fuel subsidy and which investigation was by relevant agencies
including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or any other agency has been concluded.
2. Whether in view of the judgment delivered by Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed on the 22nd day of May, 2013 in Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/617/2012, YANATY PETROCHEMICAL LIMITED VS PETROLEUM PRODUCT PRICING REGULATORY AGENCY & ANOR the respondent or any other agency can further investigate or reopen any investigation into fraud or money laundering arising from the payment of subsidy to the plaintiff by the PPPRA.
3. Whether the Honourable Court by virtue of the judgment delivered on the 22nd day of May, 2012 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/617/2012 YANATY PETROCHEMICAL LIMITED VS PETROLEUM PRODUCT PRICING REGULATORY AGENCY & ANOR where it held that the plaintiff, not being indicted in previous investigation by various security agencies, panels and investigating bodies set up to investigate the issue of fraud or money laundering arising out of the payment of fuel subsidies granted to the plaintiff, the defendant is restrained from conducting any new or further investigation into any allegation of fraud and money laundering against the plaintiff.
???
If the answers to the above questions raised are in the affirmative, the appellant then sought some declaratory reliefs against the respondent. In support of the said Originating summons was an affidavit of 29 paragraphs deposed to by one Elias Adebunmi Adeojo, a Director of the Appellant. Annexed to the said affidavit were six (6) Exhibits marked as YAN1 to YAN6 respectively. A written address was also filed as required by the rules.

In response to the Originating Summons, the respondent filed a counter affidavit of 13 paragraphs deposed to by one Chudi Nweke to which couple of Exhibits were annexed and marked as Exhibits 1-11 respectively and a written address in support. The appellant later filed a reply on points of law, in response to the respondent's processes served on the appellant. A further and better affidavit of 30 paragraphs was also filed to which couple of Exhibits were attached and marked Exhibits PET7-23 respectively. After both parties had addressed the Court and adopted their respective written addresses, the Federal High Court in its reserved judgment delivered on the 19th December, 2013 granted all the reliefs sought by the appellant.

Being dissatisfied with the judgment of the Federal High Court, the respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal. In its reserved judgment delivered on 7th December, 2015 the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in its entirety. Being dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on the issues raised by the Appellant and couched as follows:

1. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were in error in holding that the judgment of Mohammed, J. in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/617/2012 does not operate as estoppel per rem judicatam thereby restricting the cause of action therein and allowing the respondent to re-open investigation of the appellant in respect of fuel subsidy payments despite conclusion of investigations by various security agencies.

2. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal acted erroneously in holding that the injunctive order made by the learned trial Court amounted to issuing "judicial fiat" to restrain the respondent from carrying out its statutory function.

3. Whether having regard to the findings of the lower Court, the discretionary powers of the respondent is at large such that it dictates the law and can be used at its whims and caprices to re-open investigation of the appellant in respect of fuel subsidy payments despite the conclusion of investigations by various security agencies in respect thereof.

4. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal acted erroneously in interfering with the judgment of Mohammed, J. in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/617/2012 when same was not the subject of the appeal before them.

5. Whether the lower Court acted erroneously in dismissing the Notice of Preliminary Objection before it despite the manifest incompetence of Grounds 1 and 2 of the respondent's Notice of Appeal.

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Supreme Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.


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